Stanford ends WKU’s unforgettable season

Elliott Pratt

STANFORD, Calif. — Despite the events that unfolded on the West Coast, the 2012 WKU Volleyball team will be remembered as one that broke barriers for future teams.

As the Lady Toppers (33-4) exited Maples Pavilion after being swept by No. 2 Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the 2013 campaign had already begun for coach Travis Hudson and the returning Lady Toppers.

“Next season starts as soon as I walk down the hall,” Hudson said outside the team’s locker room. “This team all year has excited me because they continue to push the limits to what we can be.

“That’s what keeps me interested in coaching them — feeling like you can still do some things that we left out there, and I’m already there.”

The Lady Toppers entered the second round tournament action as major underdogs, but they didn’t play like it in the first half of the match.

WKU scored the first point in all three sets, with Noelle Langenkamp and Paige Wessel jumping the Lady Toppers out to an early 2-0 lead to begin the match.

Melanie Stutsman added a kill to extend the WKU lead to 7-3 before Stanford pieced together a 5-1 run to take their first lead of the game.

Stanford scored the set’s final seven points to win 25-15 and take a 1-0 lead.

The Lady Toppers displayed one of the lowest hitting percentages on the year at .033, while Stanford accumulated six team blocks in the set.

WKU maintained a consistent two to three point lead for much of the second set. But another scoring run by the Cardinal put the Pac-12 champions ahead for the first time in the frame at 17-16. 

A kill from Haley Bodway pulled the Lady Toppers back in the game down 24-23, but Stanford took the set point to lead 2-0 at the break.

Stanford poured its size and athleticism on WKU in the third set. The Lady Toppers spent the set playing catch up as they failed to sync up offensively.  

As Stanford served the set point, the ball deflected off Jordyn Skinner’s hands and into the WKU crowd in the stands, ending a memorable year for WKU volleyball.

The loss ended WKU’s longest win streak in school history at 25 games. This Lady Topper squad also reached the school’s highest ranking in the AVCA coaches’ poll at No. 17 and remained in the top-25 for 10-straight weeks.

“I’m awfully proud of our kids,” Hudson said. “Stanford is such a talented team. They are legitimate national championship contenders, and I couldn’t have more respect for a coach than I do in (coach) John Dunning. I wish them well moving forward, and I hope to see them (at the national championship) in Louisville in a couple of weeks.”